New on Malaysia Traveller

In case you have missed them, here are some new pages added to my website Malaysia Traveller over the past few months.

Bukit Tinggi – Berjaya Hill Resort

Colmar Tropicale, Bukit Tinggi

Bukit Tinggi is a little corner of Alsace which has been created in the Malaysian hills. Find out here what the Berjaya Hills Resort has to offer.

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Taman Saujana Hijau, Presint 11, Putrajaya

TamanSaujanaHijau24

Taman Saujana Hijau is a lovely park in Putrajaya, designed with a European feel. Read details and location here.

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Teluk Intan Attractions

Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan See the top Teluk Intan Attractions and sights on foot with this self-guided walking tour. Map included.

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Malaysia Quiz – How Well Do You Know Malaysia?

MalaysiaMosques2 Test your knowledge of Malaysia with this picture recognition Malaysia Quiz. Can you recognise where these 44 mosques are located?

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Bukit Jalil Park – Taman Rekreasi Bukit Jalil

BukitJalilParkPths Bukit Jalil Park is a pleasant place to picnic, relax and exercise on the southern edge of Kuala Lumpur. Location map, opening hours and details here.

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Teluk Batik Beach, Lumut, Perak

Teluk Batik Beach, Lumut

At Teluk Batik Beach the family can enjoy a day frolicking in the sea and trying water sports. Lifeguards, shops and facilities are on site.

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Top Singapore Attractions – Best Things To Do In Singapore

TopSingaporeAttractionsSingaporeFlyer

Singapore is a beautiful city crammed full of interesting places to visit and things to do. Here are some of my favourite top Singapore attractions.

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Bank Negara Museum and Art Gallery

BankNegaraMuseumBanknote Bank Negara Museum and Art Gallery is spacious and modern and well worth a visit. Read here for my review with photos, opening hours and location details.

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Singapore – Johore Express Bus

Earlier this year Singapore was named as the world’s most expensive city by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Prices in the island state seem particularly expensive when compared to neighbouring Malaysia, where the cost of living is said to be less than half that of Singapore.

Recently I was planning a brief trip to Singapore with my son and I was keen to avoid forking out for a Singapore hotel where the average room rates are around SGD260 per night (MYR665). This compares to KL where rates average around MYR275 per night. Of course it is possible to find cheap accommodation in Singapore but this usually involves sharing a dorm with a dozen or so unwashed strangers and various species of insect life.

I decided instead to stay overnight at the Seri Malaysia Hotel in Johor Bahru and travel from there into Singapore for a day trip.  The rate for a double was MYR150 including breakfast for two. It was far from luxurious but served the purpose.

I chose this hotel because it is located a short walk from Larkin Bus Terminal from where buses depart to Singapore’s Queen Street Terminal. I thought I would park my car securely and free of charge in the hotel’s car park. This plan failed because the hotel’s parking spaces were full and I had to leave the car in the street outside. Also it was not essential to catch the bus at Larkin – I could just have easily caught it at JB Sentral.

Larkin Bus Terminal

I opted for the Singapore-Johore Express Bus since this is a non-stop service and goes all the way to Queen Street which is located in the heart of the city and within walking distance of many of Singapore’s top attractions. The fare was a very reasonable RM2.40 (Larkin/Queen Street) and a more expensive SGD2.40 on the return journey.

Singapore Johore Express Bus

When I said ‘non-stop’ it was non-stop except for the the border crossing formalities. The bus stops at the Malaysian end of the Causeway and passengers have to alight, take the escalator into the massive Immigration and Customs complex, clear immigration and go back down and climb back on the bus. The bus then crosses the Causeway and passengers have to repeat the whole process in  Singapore’s equally imposing immigration and customs building.

Malaysian and Singaporean residents with the appropriate automated clearance system identity cards can use the e-gates at both the Singaporean and Malaysian immigration counters for swift entry but foreigners like me have to queue up and get their passports stamped. Worse, at the Singaporean end, it is necessary to complete an arrivals and departures card and if you don’t have a pen you’ll be delayed further. The bus driver does not hang around for people who are slow at clearing immigration and in our case the bus had already left when we arrived back down at the bus stop. This is normal. We just waited for the next bus (15 – 20 minutes).

While it was quite interesting to experience this international bus trip once it was a bit of a pain in the neck to have to repeat it all over again when we returned to Malaysia in the evening. I have sympathy for those Malaysians living in JB but working in Singapore who have to do this commute every day. But at least they are earning Singaporean salaries.

Tip: Do not try this trip with baggage. There is no space for baggage on the bus and you would have to lug all the bags with you when clearing immigration and customs (twice).

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Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

While in Singapore last week I visited one of the city’s newer attractions, The Gardens By The Bay. If you are into flowers or gardening you’re sure to be impressed by this place which is built on 100 hectares of reclaimed land facing the city centre.

This vast project is still under development but the key attractions were opened to the public in October 2011. These include two giant glass conservatories, called Cloud Forest and Flower Dome, and a grove of Supertrees such as the pair pictured above.

Cloud Forest, Singapore

 Cloud Forest is not your typical greenhouse. It contains a hollow concrete mountain, seven storeys high, which has been skilfully planted with dense vegetation from the tropical montane region including orchids, pitcher plants and ferns. A 35 metre waterfall keeps the air moist while powerful air-conditioners throw out a cool mist which makes a welcome relief from the steamy heat outside. Steel walkways wrap around and through the mountain and provide excellent views of Singapore’s skyline.

Moss Mobile, Singapore

At the foot of the mountain fun displays like this moss-mobile and a model railway layout entertain visitors.

Cloud Forest, Singapore

This photo of the mountain capped in man-made clouds gives an idea of the scale of the project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flower Dome, Singapore

Flower Dome, Singapore

  Flower Dome  is an even bigger conservatory (though not as tall) containing floral displays representative of different parts of the world.

Prize exhibits include a gnarled thousand year-old olive tree, some oddly shaped baobab trees and an impressive display of cacti and succulents.

The temporary exhibition included an Eiffel Tower made of plants amid a field of French inspired blooms.

Supertree Grove, Singapore

The Supertree Grove comprises a dozen or so tree-like structures ranging from 25 to 50 metres in height. These vertical gardens have been planted with rare and exotic plants and have some clever technological features for harnessing solar energy and collecting rainwater which mimic real trees. After dark the supertrees are transformed into a colourful light and sound show.

A 22 metre high Skyway bridge links a couple of the supertrees and you might be able to make out the people on the Skyway in this photo.

From Gardens By The Bay you can get a good view of the Singapore Flyer which, at 165m high, is 30m taller than the London Eye.

Singapore Flyer

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Putrajaya Floria 2014

View of Seri Saujana bridge from Putrajaya Floria 2014

The annual Putrajaya Flower and Garden Festival known as Floria opened to the public today and continues until Sunday 22nd June 2014.

Its location has shifted slightly this year to a new permanent site in the shadow of Putrajaya’s famous Seri Saujana bridge. The organizers have introduced an entrance fee for the first time (previously free) but it is only RM3 (RM1 for children) and unlikely to deter the hordes of visitors.

Rolls RoyceMaybach

The King of Malaysia attended the opening ceremony and here a couple of fine vehicles from the Royal cavalcade.

Installation made from plastic bag materialCreative entrance display at Floria 2014

There is plenty of creativity on display and many of the show gardens make good use of unusual materials such as plastic bags (above left) and other recycled materials.

Water lilies at Floria 2014Pretty display at Floria 2014

The largest indoor pavilion showcases installations by professional designers and international exhibits from the region and beyond such as these (below) from Kunming China and Germany.

Four Seasons floral display from Kunming, ChinaGermany floral display at Floria 2014

The horticultural bazaar and handicraft market is bigger and better this year.

Handicraft ProductsMalaysian fabrics on saleCacti for sale at Floria 2014

You can find more details about Putrajaya Floria 2014 on my Malaysia Traveller website.

Plenty of fun activities at Putrajaya Floria 2014

Heliconia display at Putrajaya Floria 2014

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Swiftlets’ Amazing Endurance

Swiftlets are found all over South East Asia.

Three years ago I wrote a post on this blog about Malaysia’s swiftlet farming industry (you can read it here). Almost as soon as I wrote the article, China (the largest export market) slapped a ban on Malaysian edible birds’ nests due to health concerns over nitrite found in the products. This ban has only recently been lifted for selected Malaysian suppliers.

Swiftlets are quite interesting birds:

  • They can navigate in total darkness thanks to their bat-like echo-location abilities. This is handy as they like to nest deep in the interior of giant caves much as Sarawak’s Mulu and Niah caves.
  • Swiftlets are exceptionally fast flyers and can catch copious quantities of insects in mid-flight.
  • They make their nests entirely from their own saliva (phlegm?).
  • These edible birds’ nests are collected as the prized ingredients for birds’ nest soup and are said to have multiple health-giving benefits (when not tainted with nitrates!).

Raw edible birds' nests and the famous soup.

The most amazing fact about swiftlets is their incredible endurance. According to James Alexander’s Cadogan guidebook on Malaysia, some species can spend up to four years on the wing, without rest. The swiftlet skull has evolved so that one half of the brain is able to sleep while the other works overtime. If only humans could do the same!

Swiftlet Farm near Jugra, Selangor

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Kampung Koh, Sitiawan, Perak

Kampung Koh is one of the original villages making up the sprawling settlement of Sitiawan, close to the town of Lumut and nearby to Pangkor Island.

Kg. Koh was founded in 1903 by a group of 360 Methodist Christian settlers from the Chinese province of Fujian who came to Malaya in search of better lives. They were led by two Chinese pastors – Rev. Lin Chen Mei and Rev. Dr. Huang Pau Seng – together with a German missionary called Rev. Dr. H.L. Luering.

Pioneer Methodist Church, Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

They built a church in 1905 at a cost of $900 which burnt down the following year. The current building (above) dates from 1927 and is known as the Pioneer Methodist Church.

Sitiawan Settlement Museum, Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

The church shares a compound with this 80 year old former parsonage which has been converted into the Sitiawan Settlement Museum, showcasing the heritage of the local Foochow community with photos and artefacts from those early pioneering days.

Old wells at Sitiawan Settlement Museum. 

There are some old wells in front of the museum and a plaque explains that the first well was dug by Dr. Shellabear who assisted Dr. Luering in setting up the settlement. These wells provided a continuous source of clean drinking water for the village up until the 1970’s when a piped water supply became available.

Methodist ACS at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Across the street is the Methodist Anglo Chinese School.

Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Next door to the church compound is Wat Sitawanaram, a Buddhist temple established by Thai Buddhist monks around 100 years ago. Since it was Wesak Day on the day of my visit the place was heaving with visitors.

Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

The main hall contains a large sitting Buddha statue with a smaller reclining Buddha below.

Donating Blood at Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Many devotees were doing their good deed for the day by donating blood.

Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, SitiawanWat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Giant Incense Sticks at Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

What else is Kampung Koh/Sitiawan famous for?

Chin PengChin Peng, leader of the Malayan Communist Party, was born here in 1924. Throughout the Emergency period he was a thorn in the side of the British and Malaysian authorities and his terrorist tactics were responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians, police and military personnel.

Shophouses at Kampung Koh, SitiawanPerhaps the dreary wooden shophouses in the centre of town drove him to revolution.

Chin Peng died in exile in Thailand last year. There are no plans to bring his remains back to Sitiawan as far as we know.

Kampung Koh Chili Sauce

 

 

Of much more interest to most Malaysians, Kampung Koh is also famous for its delicious chili sauce, a staple ingredient in all local kitchens.

 

 

The town is also renowned for its seafood restaurants meaning that the area has considerable potential for gourmet tourists who want to refuel on the way to Pangkor Island.

 

 

Last but not least, Sitiawan has a very fine beach of its own, Teluk Batik, which you can read about on my Malaysia Traveller website.

Teluk Batik Beach

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Country Heights – Kajang

View of Country Heights, Kajang

Country Heights Resort was the first gated and guarded community to be developed in Malaysia. It was launched in 1987 on former rubber plantation land around 25km south of Kuala Lumpur. It was always intended to be an exclusive neighbourhood and the developers referred to it as the ‘Beverly Hills of Malaysia’.

It is still one of more up-market areas in the Klang Valley and includes VIPs and the rich and famous among its residents.

It is not one of those immaculately neat sub-divisions where every home is of a similar design. Here spacious plots are sold off to individual owners who build homes according to their own tastes and budgets. The result is that virtually no two homes are alike except in a couple of areas where developers have built mini sub-divisions within the boundaries of Country Heights.

Nearly all the houses are big with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms being commonplace while there are many huge mansions with lifts, private security, underground car parks, swimming pools and ten bedrooms or more. Architectural styles range from modern tropical to mock-colonial bungalow to Mediterranean villa. Some of the homes are more elegantly designed than others. Some are exquisite while others are flashy and ostentatious proving that being rich does not guarantee good taste.

If you want to live in Country Heights you can expect to pay a lot of money. There are some houses costing less than a million US Dollars but the average price is probably around two million and much more for the top-end super luxury homes. Sadly I won’t be buying here in the foreseeable future!

Here is a sample of the homes you can find at Country Heights, Kajang.

Homes at Country Heights Kajang

Homes at Country Heights Kajang

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